5 star reviews, Christmas, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

One Day in December by Josie Silver

5/5 stars

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I do not normally give romances or women’s fiction 5 stars, but this book deserves 5 stars. This book is EVERYTHING I have ever wanted a romance to be.

One Day in December 2008, Laurie is on the bus on her way home from a grueling day at a job that is not in the field she wants to be in, when she spots Jack through the bus window. He is sitting in a bus stop and he sees her as well. Their eyes meet and although neither believes in love at first sight, they feel something. Jack goes to get on the bus but he is too late and the bus takes off.

Laurie and her best friend and roommate spend the next year looking in bars and clubs for the man she saw through the bus window, but to no avail.

Sarah begins dating someone new and tells Laurie that he may be “the one”. She goes on and on about how wonderful he is and how she wants he and Laurie to be best friends.

When Laurie meets him…she knows instantly… it is the man she saw from the bus window.

Over the next ten years, Sarah, Jack and Laurie are caught in a love triangle that ripped my heart out at times. I was expecting a sweet little romance and this was not that…this was powerful and gripping and beautiful and it felt real. I felt like this could happen and if it did, it would happen like this because nothing is perfect.

This book had every aspect of my favorite romances: undeniable chemistry, loyalty to friends and family, reunion. This book was everything I have ever wanted a romance to be!

This book is recommended to anyone who loves the movie “Love Actually” which may well be my favorite Christmas movie, so it is not surprising that I adored this book and didn’t want it to end!!

Book reviews, Christmas, fiction, romance

Three Little Words by Jenny Holiday

3/5 stars

Three Little Words is part of the Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series.  I read Merrily All the Way by the same author and I enjoyed it enough that when I was gifted the latest novel in the series, I quickly read it.

From the Publisher: 

Gia Gallo is officially in bridesmaid hell. Stranded in New York with her best friend’s wedding dress, Gia has six days to make it to Florida in time for the ceremony. And oh-so-charming best man Bennett Buchanan has taken the last available rental car. Looks like she’s in for one long road trip with the sexiest – and most irritating – Southern gentleman she’s ever met…
Bennett’s pretty sure that if there was ever a woman to break his “no flings” rule, Gia would be it. Sure, she’s stubborn. She’s also funny, smart, and the attraction between them is getting hotter with every state line they cross. While Bennett doesn’t do casual, Gia doesn’t do “relationships.” But if they break the rules, this unlikely pair might discover that their impromptu road trip could turn out to be the best ride of their lives.

My Review:

This book series is very sexually explicit, which I know is not for everyone and I had not read anything like this before.  

I liked both Gia and Bennett’s characters, I liked how they made each other better and how they had dreams together.  I liked how they resolved issues with their parents.  I really liked Bennett’s character and I enjoyed a man who didn’t do casual relationships and a woman who does for a change.  I loved all of the references to contemporary things – like Bon Jovi’s pay-what-you-can or work for dinner restaurant JBJ Soul Kitchen.  I feel like those references make the story seem more real.  

I would recommend this to anyone who has read and enjoyed this series or anyone who likes romance and doesn’t mind sexually explicit scenes.

4.5 star reviews, Book reviews, Christmas, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

4.5/5 stars

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I spent the last four Christmases with the Quinn family in Elin Hilderbrand’s Winter Street series and it was beginning to feel like they were part of my Christmas tradition. I looked forward to my time with them, just as I look forward to my friends’ annual holiday parties and spending time with my friends and their families and neighbors. I was disappointed that the series ended and not sure how I felt about a new series.

I fell in love with the Steele family. Irene Steele is poised and has so much integrity and warmth. She guided her adult children without getting overly emotionally involved in their lives, something I want to strive to do with my children. I found her to be such a great role model!

Irene has two adult sons, Cash and Baker, both struggling in their own ways – one’s business failed, the other’s marriage failed. The day after New Year’s, Irene gets a call from her husband’s business associate’s secretary that her husband was in a plan crash off the coast of St. John and that he is dead. Irene gathers her sons and they make the trip to St. John, where they realize that they never really knew what their husband/father did for a living and how he made money and that he had a secret life for many years that none of them knew about.

While down there, Irene’s two sons both fall for the same girl – Ayres, who was the girl I wanted to be when I was in my twenties, free-spirited, sexy and fun. Irene meets Huck- a fishing captain and so different from Irene, yet they really seem to hit it off and he seems to bring out something in her.

I loved all of the characters in this book, but I am Team Cash all the way; Baker kind of annoyed me, but I did like that he had his “school wives” since he was a stay-at-home dad and I liked the advice they gave him and the things he learned from them.

I look forward to spending my next two Christmases with the Steele family and finding out what happens next in their lives.

Book reviews, Christmas, romance

High Country Christmas by Cynthia Thomason

2/5 stars

I spent about ten years reading every Harlequin Superromance, Harlequin Special Edition and Silhouette Special Edition book that I could get my hands on in hopes of writing and publishing romance novels.  I had two small kids at the time and I never followed an idea all the way through, never really learned to plot a novel and my characters felt forced to me.  I had really thought that when they were both in school, I would write.  But I found other things to do and I gave up on the dream of writing a romance novel.  Maybe someday I will write a book, but right now I enjoy reading them and working at the library.

I had not read a romance novel in almost ten years, but after reading Merrily Ever After: A Novella by Jenny Holiday, I decided to look for another Christmas book and came across this one.  The description sounded great:

A runaway teen at Christmas…

brings a special gift into her life.

When Ava Cahill returns to Holly River to reunite with the son she gave up for adoption, she’s stunned to encounter Noah Walsh again. The attractive biker she knew six years ago had no idea of her secret. And now Ava’s mentoring his troubled daughter. As she and Noah rekindle powerful feelings, can she tell him the truth and become one forever family?

It might be a great romance and it might be that I have not read a romance in while, and I don’t like to give a bad review, but this book was not for me.  Ava gives up her high-powered career to be closer to the son she gave up for adoption who is now in a Children’s Home – why the heck doesn’t she bring him home?  I do understand that it would be confusing for a child who had been through the death of his parents, but in the real world, I do think the birth mother would come forward IF they wanted to and they would just bring the child into their home and family.

A teenage girl shows up at the Children’s Home and her father turns out to be the father of this little boy that Ava gave up for adoption?  It’s just too unbelievable.

Also, I did not like Noah – the attractive biker.  I kept thinking he would grow on me, but he never did.  He did care about his daughter, Sawyer and tried to provide for her, but there was something about the way he was written that didn’t sit right with me.

I did like Ava’s character and I loved the big, warm Cahill family, the brothers and sisters in law and family dinners.  I loved the idea of a Children’s Home and the way it was set up with the cottages.  Sawyer being concerned about her dad because he had a dangerous job and feeling like he didn’t care about her because he took risks, felt real to me.  

Book reviews, Christmas, cooking

Home Made Christmas by Yvette Van Boven

4/5 stars

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I am like a big kid when it comes to Christmas!  I love absolutely everything about it–the decorations, making food, getting together with family and friends, the lights, the tree, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, the plays, the books, the music, the movies, the cartoons…I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT CHRISTMAS!!

So when I saw this book in August, I got excited to add a little Christmas cheer to my summer!  I have to say the photos were perfect for a Christmas book and really set the tone for this book in such a good way!

There are meat recipes in here and I don’t eat meat, but there are A LOT of vegetarian soup and salad recipes that look delicious like a Warm Bean Salad with Cashew and Kale Pesto and Oven Roasted Beets Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Dates and Celery.  And, of course, the dessert recipes were all vegetarian.  I didn’t see any unfamiliar or exotic ingredients – I get turned off by ingredients that I have never heard of or are hard to find or you can only get online and shipping is ridiculous and you have never heard of this ingredient so should you even bother?  This cookbook had interesting recipes that used ingredients found in most grocery stores.

I would like to thank Abrams Press and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

5 star reviews, Book reviews, Christmas, cooking

Cooking with Nonna: A Year of Italian Holidays by Rosella Rago

5/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetYou have no idea how excited I am to have this cookbook!  I normally review healthy vegan or plant-based cookbooks and this is not that.  But I am Italian and I could relate so well to Rosella Rago’s intro, getting all the family together, the tablecloths didn’t have to match, you could eat on paper plates, all that mattered was that the family was together and the family ate the family recipes.

I do eat healthy, but I still make my family’s marinara and we have that for dinner several times a month.  The one big reason why I don’t think I will ever be 100% vegan: I will not give up The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.  I may only eat fish a few times during the year so that my body can digest it on Christmas Eve, but I want to be the Nonna one day and have my grandchildren come to my house for the family recipes of scungilli salad and baccala, because that is how I keep my Nonna alive.  One bite of those foods and it’s like she’s sitting next to me again!  (I’ve been known to break down in tears at the smell of certain Italian food cooking because the good memories of a time long gone come rushing back).

I was THRILLED to find vegan recipes like Savory Scallion Pie, Genovese-Style Focaccia with Onions, Fritters with Black Olives and Escarole Pie.

The Lamb and Potatoes recipe looks identical to what my Nonna used to make.  I won’t eat lamb, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if my husband made this one Sunday.

And if you have ever wanted the best Easter dish ever – there is a recipe for Pizza Rustica in here (some call it Pizza Chiena “stuffed pizza) but our family, and Rosella Rago’s family, always called it Pizza Rustica.

The photo of the Soft Easter Bread brought back so many memories!

The Thanksgiving stuffing sounds just like my Nonna’s with rice and sausage and ground beef.

And Cardoons!  I had forgotten all about cardoons and my family also went to Arthur Avenue to get those and my Nonna used a similar recipe!

I actually got tears in my eyes about the Egg Drop Chicken Soup–my Nonna used to make it for me all year.  She thought I needed more protein and it was nourishing.